The U.S. found that it needs to scale up the capabilities of the country's defense industries, Xi Jinping has been reinstated as Chinese leader, Moscow continues its disinformation war and cyber attacks on Moldova, and London and Paris assure Kyiv that peace negotiations with Russia will take place only when Ukraine is ready for them.
offers a digest of Western mass media at the end of the March 6–10, 2023, business week.
The U.S. revealed problems in its defense industry because of the war in Ukraine
The war in Ukraine has exposed deep-seated problems that the United States must surmount to effectively manufacture the arms required not just to aid its allies but also for America’s self-defense, The Washington Post writes.
Those challenges take on new importance as Washington contemplates the possibility of its own great-power fight.
A broad public discussion has arisen in the U.S. around the need to shatter the "brittleness" of the U.S. defense industry and devise new means to quickly scale up output of weapons at moments of crisis.
Research conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) shows the current output of American factories may be insufficient to prevent the depletion of stockpiles of key items the United States is providing Ukraine. Even at accelerated production rates, it is likely to take at least five years to recover the inventory of Javelin antitank missiles, Stinger surface-to-air missiles and other in-demand items.
It would also take as long as 15 years at peacetime production levels, and more than eight years at a wartime tempo, to replace the stocks of major weapons systems such as guided missiles, piloted aircraft and armed drones if they were destroyed in battle or donated to allies.
"What the Ukraine conflict showed is that, frankly, our defense industrial base was not at the level that we needed it to be to generate munitions," said Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy. "Those are going to matter a year from now, two years from now, three years from now, because even if the conflict in Ukraine dies down, and nobody can predict whether that will happen, Ukraine is going to need a military that can defend the territory it has clawed back."
The Pentagon’s own analysis of the U.S. defense sector reveals an industry poorly equipped to match the productive prowess of World War II. Its problems trace in part to the consolidation of military manufacturers that occurred The Army now plans to boost its monthly capacity for producing 155-mm shells from about 14,000 now to 30,000 this spring, and eventually to 90,000. The military also is spending $80 million to bring a second source online for the Javelin missile’s rocket motor, a key component, and plans to double production to around 4,000 a year.
Researchers note, however, that of the $45 billion Congress has appropriated for producing new weapons for Ukraine and replacing donated U.S. stocks, the Pentagon as of February had placed contracts for only around $7 billion, raising questions about whether it is moving fast enough.
Mutual enmity and grievance: U.S.—China relations after Xi was reelected
Xi Jinping was reelected for the third presidential term on March 10, The New York Times writes.
The unanimous vote on the presidency by the Communist Party-controlled legislature formalized Mr. Xi’s continued dominance of Chinese politics after he had already claimed a fresh term as party leader in October. He will keep holding the three main crowns of power in China — party, military and state — with no rivals or potential successors.
Under Mr. Xi, China’s relations with the West have become increasingly strained, especially over Beijing’s rising pressure on Taiwan and Chinese closeness to Russia throughout the war in Ukraine, the NYT notes.
At a meeting with business leaders this week, Mr. Xi suggested that Western animosity was to blame for some of China’s economic troubles and openly accused the United States of "all-around containment, encirclement and suppression."
He sought to reassure private businesses of state support, while at the same time reminding them that they must serve the party’s priorities, including in national security and rural development.
"This period is going to be an important one for seeing whether Xi is repentant or unbowed. I wouldn’t expect him to change a lot of the essentials," Christopher K. Johnson, a former C.I.A. analyst.
For now at least, Mr. Xi has signaled that he is prepared to push back against the United States over its sanctions and restrictions on Chinese firms and its expanding military deployments around Asia.
Mr. Xi still seems to hope to restart talks with Washington to manage tensions. But his unusually blunt warning against U.S. intentions will also ripple through the Chinese political system, said Ryan Hass, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
"President Xi’s public expression of frustration toward Washington will give license to other actors in China’s system to take a sharper public line against the United States," Mr. Hass said. "I expect President Biden and Xi to speak again in the coming couple of months. Until the relationship finds areas of common purpose, though, it will remain defined by mutual enmity and grievance."
How Russia destabilizes Moldova
A coup attempt, bomb hoaxes, internet hacks, fake conscription call-ups, mass protests: Moldova says it's had them all in the past year, Reuters reports.
"We had an explosion of security threats starting February 24 last year," Interior Minister Ana Revenco said.
Moldovan officials speak of a misinformation and propaganda campaign orchestrated by Moscow which they say is designed to destabilize and undermine the government of President Maia Sandu, elected in 2020 on a promise to seek membership of the European Union.
"It puts a very strong pressure on the psychological resilience of the population," Revenco added.
Last month, Moldovan authorities claimed there was a plan for a coup, under which Russia would have sent agitators to Moldova and attempt to provoke violent clashes. Officials expelled two unidentified alleged agents last week in connection with the unrest, though did not give details about the scale of the plan or whether it had met with any success.
Bomb hoaxes have, meanwhile, become part of everyday life, consuming official resources, according to the interior ministry, which said authorities had received more than 400 fake threats by phone or email since last summer, requiring interventions by a total of 9,000 police officers.
Chisinau Airport, educational institutions, courts, hospitals and shopping centers were among the hoax targets, the ministry said.
Moldovan authorities said a series of cyberattacks over the past year had seen some government websites temporarily crashed and the phones of several officials hacked.
Another tactic used by anti-government agitators is to circulate mocked-up conscription notices on social media, especially the Telegram messaging service.
Sunak and Macron on support for Ukraine: where the priorities lie
The war in Ukraine will end at the negotiating table, Rishi Sunak has said, as he vowed to support Volodymyr Zelenskiy to be in the "best possible place to have those talks," according to The Guardian.
While the prime minister indicated that now is not the time for those peace talks, he recommitted to providing additional support to Ukraine to ensure it has an advantage on the battlefield.
Speaking hours before meeting Emmanuel Macron, Sunak said:
"We’re providing training to use those capabilities. That’s all under way, as well as just helping defend themselves against the attacks that they’re facing, particularly on their critical national infrastructure. Now, that should be everyone’s focus."
Of course, this will end as all conflicts do, at the negotiating table, but that is a decision for Ukraine to make.
"But at the moment, the priority has got to be giving them the resources, the training and the support they need to push forward and create advantage on the battlefield," he emphasized.
Sunak met with French leader Emmanuel Macron in Paris to deepen their working relationship and personally "reset" the troubled relations between the countries. One of the issues on the agenda is joint support for Ukraine and further defence cooperation between the U.K. and France. The leaders hope to start a "new chapter" in their relationship and believe the countries’ shared outlook on restoring peace in Ukraine will deepen and strengthen that relationship.
"The destinies of the United Kingdom and France are linked. Our challenges are shared. Conservation of our planet, support for Ukraine, security and energy cooperation: together we are making progress," Macron tweeted.
Sunak also confirmed that he and Macron would urge China and other countries not to be providing support to Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.